We played Twisted Metal Head-On against four other players in multiplayer peer-to-peer (PSP-to-PSP) wireless mode and were impressed by the smooth gameplay. We also played Twisted Metal via the Internet with two other people and had good results. But we imagine that when you get up to a dozen players (Twisted Metal supports up to 16-player multiplayer), you'll probably encounter a hiccup or two. And, of course, wireless gameplay depends on your connection -- or, in the case of peer-to-peer action, the distance and potential obstructions between devices. As far as distance goes, we were able to move about 18m apart with a clear line of sight in an office setting before our connection became spotty. We felt the Nintendo DS offered better wireless coverage.
Before we get to battery life, a few sentences about the PSP's audio. Using the included earbud-style headphones, sound quality was fine with games, but we would have liked the maximum volume to go a tad higher when we listened to our MP3s, especially in noisier environments. When you play games and watch movies such as Spider-Man 2 on UMD, you can boost the volume via a special UMD volume-settings menu, which is helpful.
A few preset equaliser settings (Heavy, Pops, Jazz, and Unique) are onboard to tweak the sound, but you can't manually set treble and bass levels, which is annoying. The PSP's external speakers can't put out booming sound, but they're certainly adequate for gaming and casual video watching. Using the headphones, however, will give you a much more immersive experience. Conveniently, volume can be raised and lowered from two buttons just below the screen or via the in-line remote.
Battery life? Well, a lot of numbers have been bandied about, with some critics suggesting its relatively short run time would be the PSP's Achilles' heel. Here's what we got.
Running on full brightness, we managed about 5.5 hours of gameplay before having to recharge the included 1,800mAH lithium-ion battery pack; gaming time can vary significantly depending upon screen brightness (two dimmer settings are options) and the game you're playing. It's worth noting that recharging a battery to full capacity takes a lengthy 2.5 hours. Playing in peer-to-peer wireless mode reduced game sessions by a little more than 2 hours; the battery pooped out after 3 hours and 15 minutes. For music only, the PSP was able to run for a decent 11.2 hours.
And finally, we managed to watch Spider-Man 2 all the way through twice and got 20 minutes into a third showing before the battery died. All in all, that's not too bad and slightly better than we expected. Still, the easiest way to ensure that your PSP doesn't go dead at an inopportune moment is to purchase an additional battery pack -- kudos to Sony for making it replaceable. Transfer rate over USB 2.0 to an inserted Memory Stick was a reasonable 2.2MB per second.
Editor's note: this review was updated on 28 March 2006.
Edited by Rob Dubbin, John P. Falcone and David Rudden
Additional editing by Nick Hide